Friday, 28 June 2013

Questions, Courage, and Vulnerability

Do we have the courage to ask the hard questions at the risk of sounding like a fool??

To me, there is something very exciting about a GOOD question.
Have you ever been in a class or meeting when someone raises one of those laser sharp, on the mark kind of questions that causes everyone to suddenly become alert with new energy?
All eyes are on the instructor.  There is a hushed silence, a pause, an expectation that this will be a defining moment.  This will be a moment of truth.

A similar situation is found in the story of the emperor who wore no clothes.

"A vain Emperor who cares for nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or "hopelessly stupid". The Emperor's ministers cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions and the Emperor does the same. Finally the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretence, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but continues the procession." [summary taken from Wikipedia]

Everyone close to the emperor had questions about what was going on.  They could see with their eyes that the invisible fabric was a hoax but  "for fear of appearing unfit for their positions" noone had the courage to voice the question.

Asking the tough questions of ourselves and others makes us vulnerable because noone wants to look foolish or unfit.  We're told "there's no such thing as a bad question" yet when we encounter avoidance and indifference to the questions we're wrestling with, it can make our questions seem as though they are insignificant, disqualified, and "unfit" to be heard.

Sometimes we need to be encouraged to use our voices like the little child in the emperor's story.

Brene Brown is a research professor who has spent the past 13 years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame.  She poses this question: "How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness?  How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough---that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy." [TEDX]

In a recent interview with Oprah, Brene discloses that she was an academic ruled by certainty, statistics, and facts but that she wasn't living and loving with her full heart.  Her best selling book "Daring Greatly" is about her journey into how we can make our lives more meaningful through vulnerability. (Reminds me of a previous post.)

Brene defines vulnerability as:  Being brave enough to "show up and let ourselves be seen". Vulnerability opens the door to intimacy....she claims it's the only door that can.

"My ego says to me:  'You have no inherent worth.  You've got to hustle for it, baby.  How fast you gonna run?  How high you gonna jump?  How many likes do you have on Facebook?'"

She also makes this astounding observation:  "The less you talk about shame, the more you've got it."
She adds this:  "Love and belonging are the irreducible needs of men, women, and children.  In absence of these there will always be suffering."

I've posted the TEDX link below because I think there is tremendous value for us as Christians in what Brene has to say here.  Towards the end of the video, she draws attention to the significance of being able to say "I am enough".  My initial response to these words was, "Wait, only El Shaddai is enough".
But as I tried to really listen to the heart of what she was saying,  I realized that what she meant by those words is actually true for all of  us:

We are each created in the image of God and as such we have immeasurable value just because we exist.
Each one of us is unique and special just as we are.  Unworthiness and shame often make us think we need to become like others in order to have value and worth.  When we don't love ourselves for who we are, we get pushed deeper and deeper into the crippling and fear-driven trap of "performance mentality".
Brene's point is this: Don't let other people define who you are.  You are who you are....and you are enough.

We are not complete until we find our completeness in the work that Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the Cross..... but we are enough just being and becoming all that God has called us to be. We have ALL we need in Him.

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